Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fennel Serrano Salad w/ Pomegranate & Deconstructed Vinaigrette

Made this up and I must say it turned out lovely, no?

Here's what I did:

  • arugula
  • shaved fennel
  • serrano or proscuitto, cut into ribbons
  • pomegranate seeds
  • balsamic vinegar reduction (on another page, you basically simmer it for a long time with butter)
  • orange oil (all i did was put a bunch of orange rinds (cut in small pieces) into a small container of olive oil and let it sit over night. By morning, I had a very lovely orange oil. Ok, moving on.
  • Compose arugula & fennel in the center of the plate, and arrage it with the proscuitto ribbons.
  • Sprinkle pomegranate seeds around and make it pretty
  • Balsamic reduction goes along one side of the plate, and I drizzled the other rim of the plate with the orange oil. This way, you have a vinaigrette that you can create and play around with the flavors. It's fun, pretty, and really not that bad for you.
I am so fancy!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

40th Anniversary 9 Course Tasting Menu

It was my parents 40th so I went all out. It's November so I wanted to stick to an autumn theme. I also wanted to give them the experience of going to a very fancy restaurant. So this is what I did. Every single component (including the juices & oils) was made by hand. It took about a week of research. A day of shopping. 3-4 nights of prep work. And finally about 2 full days of cooking. Worth. Every. Second. I included some pics at the bottom. Do this for someone you love and make them feel like the center of the universe!

cave-agued gruyere puffs, cranberry chutney
arugula & fennel, serrano ham, pomegranate, balsamic reduction, orange oil
pomegranate granita
cream of cauliflower, candied ginger
grapefruit granita
seared scallops, apple-onion marmalade, bacon, cider sauce
served with pinot grigio
pear sorbet, cardamom
pan-roasted beef tenderloin w/ rosemary & garlic, orange honey roasted baby carrots, celery root & potato puree
served with zinfindel
berry cobbler, creme anglaise
served with port

Gruyere Puffs:

Cranberry Chutney:





Celery Root & Potato Puree

I made this to go alongside beef tenderloin and carrots. It's a nice change of pace from your regular mashed potatoes. The celery root adds a different dimension.

  • 1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (I used red potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 lbs celery root (celeriac)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped chervil (or just use parsley cuz they're damn near the same thing)

Peel potatoes & celery root. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Steam in a large steamer set over boiling water, covered, until very tender, 30-40 minutes. Force through a food mill into a bowl (I ended up putting it in the food processor), stir in cream, chervil, 3/4 tsp salt and about 1/2 tsp pepper.

*Can be made 2 days ahead & chilled. Reheat gently.

Orange-Roasted Baby Carrots w/ Honey

  • 1.5 lbs slender baby carrots
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp (or more) orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1.5 tsp honey
  • fleur de sel (it's fancy sea salt, folks)

Preheat oven to 400. Arrange carrots in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet (used pyrex). Add 2 tbsp olive oil & orange peel; sprinkle with salt & pepper & toss. Pour OJ over; cover tightly with foil & roast until crisp-tender (about 10 minutes). Remove foil. Increase oven to 450. Drizzle honey over the carrots. Roast uncovered until carrots are tender & browned in spots (about 10 minutes more). Transfer carrots & any juices to platter. Drizzle lightly with additional olive oil & sprinkle with fleur de sel.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

My husband called this "so good it's ridiculous".
  • 2lbs mixed berries
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3tbsp raw sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter (whatever, I used salted), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup finely minced crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a bowl, combine the berries, lemon juice, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the cornstarch, cinnamon & ground ginger and toss to coat the berries evenly. Pour the berry mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda & crystallized ginger in a food processor & pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter & pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg & cream. Pour the egg & cream into thae processor & pulse just until the topping mixture holds together.

Using a soup spoon, place dollops of the topping evenly over the berries, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edge of the dish. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top. I also sprinkled a few more tiny pieces of crystallized ginger over the top as well.

Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet (in case it boils over. mine didn't though.). Bake cobbler until the top is golden & the berry filling is bubbling - about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack & let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Using a large spoon or spatula, scoop out the cobbler onto individual plates and seriously consider serving it with creme anglaise. Seriously.

Pan-Roasted Beef Tenderloin w/ Rosemary & Garlic

This is a Williams-Sonoma recipe. They included a recipe for a bordelaise sauce to go alongside the meat. We made it. It turned out like crap. So if I were you I'd just make a little pan gravy and call it a day. It's awesome even without the sauce. Melt. In. Your. Mouth.

  • 1 beef tenderloin roast (that you maybe even butchered yourself?) 2.5-3lbs
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400. Let the roast stand at room temp. for 30-40 minutes. Set the roast on a clean work surface & lay the rosemary springs lengthwise along the roast. Using kitchen twine, tie the rosemary to the roast at 2-inch intervals (like above).

Rub the roast with garlic & season with salt & pepper. Preheat a large saute pan over med-high heat & warm the vegetable oil. Add the roast & brown, 3-4 min per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven & roast, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 125 degrees (for very rare to rare), 15-20 minutes. Or cook it longer if you have bad taste. Yeah I said it. Transfer the roast to a cutting board, cover loosely w/ aluminum foil & let it rest for 5 minutes. At least.

DE-lish! (dammit I sound like rachel ray)...

Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Apple-Onion Marmalade, Bacon & Cider Sauce

This is even better than it sounds. Perfect for autumn.

  • 6 slices lean bacon
  • 18 large sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • salt & pepper

For the marmalade:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large vidalia onion, cut through the stem into thin wedges
  • 1 large golden delicious or other baking apple, cored & cut into thin wedges
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper

Making the marmalade:

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions & cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Stir in apples & cumin seeds. Cook, stirring, until the onions are golden & the apples begin to soften, about 30 minutes more. Add the cider vinegar, salt & pepper and remove from heat. Set aside.

For the scallops:

In another large fry pan over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crisp, 3-5 minutes. Using tongs or slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain. Discard all but about 1 tbsp (a light coating) of the bacon drippings from the pan.

Sprinkle the scallops lightly with salt & pepper. Return the fry pan to med-hi heat. When the pan is hot, add the scallops a few at a time & cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a plate & keep warm while you cook the remaining scallops. When all the scallops are cooked, add the apple cider to the pan & boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Pour any juices that have collected on the scallop plate into the fry pan. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, reheat the marmalate over med-low heat until heated through. Serve creatively:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Creme Anglaise

This is like liquid creme brulee except it's easier to make & has more uses. Pour it over everything and anything sweet. I'm making mine for berry cobbler. But, honestly I could just drink the stuff.

  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks

Have a fine medium-sized strainer & bowl ready near the stove. In a stainless steel bowl stir together, using a wooden spoon, the yolks until well blended (don't let it sit too long or a film will develop on the yolks).

In a small saucepan heat the cream & vanilla bean (if using) just to the boiling point. Remove from heat & whisk a few tbsps of the cream in the yolk mixture. Then, gradually add the remaining cream, whisking constantly.

Pour this mixture into a medium sized saucepan, and, over medium heat, gently heat to just below the boiling point. Steam will begin to appear & the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle. Check to see if it is the right consistency by holding a wooden spoon sideways that is covered with the custard & run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the streak remains without the cream running down through the streak, it is ready.

Immediately remove from the heat & pour through the strainer, scraping up any thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean & scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until seeds separate. For maximum flavor, return the pod to the sauce until serving time. If using vanilla extract, add it now.

The creme anglaise can be refrigerated covered with plastic wrap for a couple of days.

**If sauce was overheated & curdled, IT CAN BE SAVED. Pour instantly into a blender & process until smooth before straining. If necessary, add a little extra cream before blending.

Makes 2 cups.

Oh man....

Pomegranate Granita

Not just for pomegranate. This is really how you make a granita with most any juice (sweet or savory). I did grapefruit yesterday. Granitas are a fun way to get your fruit juice, but they're also a classy thing to serve in between courses when you're attempting to host a fancy dinner.

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice (or other juice)

  • 2 tbsp sugar (or more, up to you)

  • pinch of salt

You want to use fresh juice. So squeeze that grapefruit and mush those pomegranate seeds.

In a bowl, whisk everything together until the sugar & salt have dissolved. Strain (if necessary).

Put mixture into a small, shallow, nonreactive dish (I used gladware. I know, I'm fancy).

Place the dish on a level surface in the freezer & freeze, stirring occasionally with a fork, until coarse, frozen crystals form. Takes about 2-3 hours. Sometimes more. Cover and keep frozen until ready to serve. Scoop granita into small bowls & serve immediately.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup w/ Ginger

How do you "core" this thing???
  • 2 leeks, roots trimmed, including 2 inches of green
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 celery rib, with extra leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored & broken into florets. Here we go - anyone know how to core a cauliflower? I asked around and the answer was no. So I just cut the bitch.
  • 1 cup half & half
  • salt & pepper
  • crystallized ginger

Cut leeks in half, lengthwise. Wash to remove dirt. Pat dry & thinly slice crosswise.

Heat the oil with the butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Wilt the leeks & celery with leaves until softened, 10 minutes; add garlic during the last 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder & ginger and cook over very low heat to permeate the vegetables, 1 minute. Add the broth, lemon juice & cauliflower florets. Raise the heat to high & bring to a boil; reduce the heat & simmer, partially covered, until the cauliflower is very tender, 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

Puree in a food processor until very smooth, adding half & half thru the feed tube. Add extra broth for desired consistency. Salt & pepper to taste.

Sprinkle with crystallized ginger, sliced leeks or florets.

Pear & Cardamom Sorbet

Pictured: pear sorbet, dusted with cardamom & served with a bit of the Williams Pear brandy.

You can make the pear & cardamom variety, or just leave the cardamom out and it stands perfectly well on it's own as a pear sorbet.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom (optional, it's great without it)
  • 4 pears, peeled, cored & chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp eau de vie de poire (I don't know what it means either. Use pear brandy) :-)

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar & water to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes until the mixture reduces in volume and thickens.

Chill the syrup for at least 30 minutes, until it's cool. Then process the syrup, pears, lemon juice & pear brandy in a blender/processor until smooth.

Then just follow the directions on your ice cream maker & pop it in the freezer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cranberry Chutney

This stuff will make your kitchen smell like Christmas! It's knockout delicious and you can make it a few days ahead.

  • 1lb fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped apple
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a pan or dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until juice is released from cranberries, about 15 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until thickened; stirring occasionally.

That's it! Chill before serving. Also, it will keep in the fridge (in an airtight container) for up to 2 weeks). I cut the recipe in half and it came out just fine as well.

Here it is!

Gruyere Cheese Puffs

These are a little tricky, but really good when you get them right. Have a look:

  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tbsps
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2.5oz Gruyere cheese, cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2/3 cup). I used cave-aged.
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

They're simple to mix up. You preheat your oven to 400 (according to the directions) and line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. In a medium saucepan, combine the water with the butter & salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat.

Reduce to low, add the flour all at once & beat with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth & pulls away from the sides of the pan. Beat for 1 minute longer to dry out the batter.

Remove from heat & let the batter cool for 5 minutes. Then, beat in 1 egg at a time, beating well between additions. Stir in cheese & pepper. Drop tbsps of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets & bake for about 20 minutes or until puffed & golden. This is where I had trouble. The original directions actually said 30 minutes but that was so way off. I gave them 20 minutes and got these:

Nice, right? We tasted them, and the bottoms tasted burnt. Now, does this look like a burnt puff to you:

Well, maybe a little. But it tasted BLACKENED. Not just a little brown. Some were ok though. And the ones that were, tasted great. As for the burnt ones, just remove the bottoms and they're delicious. But not too fancy for a party. Some that came out only moments earlier were ok:

Thats the bottom - same color as the top, right? Still tasted a little overdone. Crap. So I took the last batch out way early and got these:

Are you lauging yet? These little guys didn't puff up all the way and tasted more doughy, but they were DELICIOUS!!! Anyway, try making them. Maybe lower the heat a bit. And watch them really carefully. They keep well, too. The baked puffs can be frozen for up to 1 month (hello Christmas!). Just thaw them and warm them up in the oven a bit before serving.

I'm serving mine with cranberry chutney (recipe to follow)...

Coulis, Compote or Chutney?

I'm trying to get a better understanding of all the little french words that usually just mean fruit and sugar. Here's a primer:

Coulis: French for "strained liquid" - that's just what it is! A coulis can be sweet or savory. The base is either a fruit or a (cooked) vegetable. Puree, season (like with lemon or salt) and then strain to remove seeds and such. A very common one is raspberry coulis - often served with something chocolatey. Behold:

Compote: Cooked fruit dessert with rich syrup. Can be warm or chilled. Here's one with figs and cinnamon:

Chutney: This one seems a lot like a compote to me. It's fruit & sugar that are combined, sometimes with vinegar, and simmered slowly. Usually sweet & sour, but can be spiced. The most common is probably Mango:

Gastrique: Thick, syrupy reduction (we've heard this before) of vinegar or wine, sugar and usually fruit. Often served over meat or seafood to add a fruit flavor to the dish. It's thinner (like the coulis):

Aioli: When seasonings or flavors are mixed with mayonaise. Lookie:

Remoulade: Similar to the aioli, it's mayo-based. But a remoulade is more similar to tartar sauce and includes mixed herbs, veggies, etc.

Granita: semi-frozen dessert of sugar, water and some kind of fresh fruit or vegetable juice. Originally from Sicily, it's a little more coarse and crystalline than a sorbet, maybe more like italian ice. For this one you don't cook anything. Just stir juice with sugar and maybe lemon or a pinch of salt, and then pop it in the freezer, scraping it around with a fork every couple of hours to break it up. Now that's simple! Here's a watermelon granita:

I'm sure there are more. I'll add them as I think of them!

Chicken w/ Lemon and Olives

  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1+ tsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 whole roasting chicken (mine was 4.5lbs)
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1lb fingerling potatoes (or other)
  • 1 jar pitted kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 400. Combine thyme, oregano, oil, garlic & salt plus a handful of chopped olives (I used 6) in a small bowl.

Gently loosen skin from the breast of the chicken. Spread herbs evenly under the skin. Place lemon quarters inside the cavity. PLace chicken, breast side up, in dutch oven. Add potatoes & more olives (I used about 12 here) all around the chicken.

Roast chicken for 17-22 minutes per pound. It's done when the thigh registers 180. Took me about an hour and 2o minutes.

Sweet Mustard & Clove Mustard

I used this to pour over ham steak, but it stands well on it's own and could be used for many things:

  • 3oz mustard seeds, any variety
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper

For Clove Mustard add

  • 1 tsp cloves

Put dry ingredients in blender, add just enough wine to make a paste. Keep in the fridge till you're ready to use it. I found mine to be a little thin so I added a bit of flour and heated it since I was using it on a hot dish.

Grapefruit Granita

Making this for my parent's 40th anniversary dinner. I'll be posting the rest of the recipes, as well as the full menu later. Grapefruit granita, lemon sorbet, any kind of light citrusy frozen treat can be served in between courses to cleanse the palate. And it's also just kind of fun.

  • 2 ruby red grapefruits
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch salt

Juice the grapefruits to get about 1 cup of liquid. In a bowl, whisk together the grapefruit juice, sugar & salt until dissolved. Pour mixture through a strainer into a small, shallow dish.

Place the dish on a level surface in the freezer & freeze, stirring occasionally with a fork until coarse, frozen crystals form. About 2-3 hours.

Cover & keep frozen until ready to serve.

Scoop the granita into small bowls and serve immediately. Garnish with a paper-thin slice of lemon.

Ginger Scones

I'm really not good at baking. Really. Not. Good. But this isn't so bad. And, it's perfect with lemon curd (which I love)!

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1 tbsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold

  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 cup cream or half-and-half

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Cut in butter with a mixer until the largest pieces of butter are pea-sized. Be careful not to let the butter get too warm or it will make a paste and ruin your scones. Chop ginger finely & stir in.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg & cream/milk. Add to dry mix & stir just enough to moisten. Gather the dough & knead it agains the side of the bowl, collecting loose pieces into the dough. Continue just until the dough comes together into a ball & cleans sides of the bowl. Transfer to a lightly floured board & pat or roll into a circle about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on a parchment covered baking sheet at least 1-inch apart.

Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes until the tops are just golden.

Seriously, serve it with the lemon curd.

What's that? My scone isn't triagular like it's supposed to be? You try it.

Lemon Curd

Lemon curd isn't only for fancy tea parties. It's delish all by itself or with scones (especially my ginger scones!)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 lemons, juice & zest
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pats & chilled

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1/2 inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks & sugar in a medium size bowl (preferrably metal) and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.

Measure lemon juice out & add to egg mixture along with the zest. Whisk till smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low & place bowl on top of saucepan (bowl should be large enough to fit on top of the saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, about 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow & coats the back of a spoon.

Remove to a clean container & cover by laying plastic wrap directly to the surface of the curd.

Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Panettone French Toast

When I tried this recipe I didn't really think it would be that good. In fact, I just made it because I was bored one night, but it turns out - this is good stuff. Especially during the holidays.

  • 1 panettone

  • 6 eggs

  • 2 cups milk (I used whole)

  • grated zest of 1 orange (I used 2 clementines)

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice

  • 2 tbsp Cointreau or other liqueur (I actually used D'Saronno)

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • freshly grated nutmeg (to taste)

  • 4-6 tsp butter, unsalted

  • 4-6 tsp canola oil

  • confectioner's sugar (for dusting)

Cut the panettone into 1-inch vertical slices, then cut in half. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until just blended, then whisk in the milk, orange zest, juice, liqueur, extract, sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg. Pour into a large shallow dish & place the bread slices in the mixture. Soak for 5 minutes per side (take them out before they get too mushy).

In each of 2 large saute pans over medium heat, melt 1 tsp of butter with 1 tsp of the oil. When the butter foams, add some of the soaked bread slices, taking care not to crowd them. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes per side. Turn the slices over again & cook them for a few minutes more per side until browned to your taste. Turn off the heat.

Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the french toast to serving plates, place them in the oven & turn the oven to 200 degrees. Repeat to cook the remaining slices.

Dust the french toast with confectioner's sugar & serve immediately.

**can be served with maple syrup, yogurt, lemon wedges, or alone**

Panettone is a holiday fruit cake/bread common in many european and south american countries.

Ginger Lemongrass Tea

I know you can just buy tea. We all know you can just buy tea. But you're not getting all the goodness that you would get if you added some fresh herbs, spices and seasonings. I make this when I feel like I'm coming down with something.

  • 1 quart water
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated gingerroot (more if you're daring)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, cut lengthwise
  • 2 bags of tea (any kind)
  • honey or raw sugar
  • lemon

Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat & add ginger & lemongrass. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat & add 2 bags of tea (or 2 tsp loose tea). Taste. If it's too weak, continue steeping. If it's too strong, add more water. I love recipes you can't screw up! Strain & sweeten with honey. Add lemon to taste.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gia-Ninh's Clear Cooked Napa w/ Sesame Oil

As I've said before, Gia-Ninh knows his stuff. Here's a delicious side to go with any asian-style meal you're working on:

  • 1 medium sized head of napa cabbage, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp corn oil
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Heat wok until SCREAMING HOT - Gia-Ninh says, "when you can flick water at it and it skittles across the surface of the pan, you're ready". Add the corn oil & then 1 tbsp of the salt & swirl to coat.

Add napa to the pan & toss to coat the cabbage with the oil (you're not going to get everything coated right away so just toss it a few times). As the napa cooks down, add sugar to taste. Stir fry on super high heat, stirring vigorously as it cooks down. Once close to doneness, taste & adjust for salt, add sesame oil, take off the heat (always take off heat after sesame oil is added because it has such a low smoke point, to avoid scorching the oil).

Eat it while it's hot.

Scallops w/ Parsley Vinaigrette

This was included in a recipe for scallops, but could be used damn near anywhere. :)

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley (dried is *not* the same)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 lb of scallops, halved
  • salt & pepper

Put 4 tbsp of the olive oil into a frying pan & heat. Add the parsley, garlilng & lemon zest and cook for a minute or two. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool. Add the lemon juice & balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper (to taste) & whisk to combine.

Heat the remaining oil in another frying pan. Season the scallops with salt & add to the pan. Fry for about 45 seconds on one side, then about 30 seconds on the other.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the scallops & serve hot.

A Vinaigrette is an emulsion of vinegar (or sometimes citrus juice)and oil, often flavored with herbs, spices and other ingredients. Can be used as a salad dressing, sauce or marinade.

Brined Roast Turkey

A-la Alton Brown:

  • 1 14-16lb frozen young turkey

For the Brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the Aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • canola oil

I. 2-3 Days Before Roasting:

Begin thawing turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice & candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, to dissolve solids & bring to a boil. Then remove from heat, cool to room temperature & refridgerate.

II. Early on the Day or the Night Before:

Combine the brine, water & ice in a 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure that it is fully immersed, cover & refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8-16 hours, turning the bird once halfway through the brining.

Preheat the oven to 500. Remove the bird from brine & rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on a roasting rack inside a half sheet pan & pat dry with paper towels. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick & 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish & microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary & sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird & coat the skin liberally with canola oil. Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast & reduce the oven temperature to 350.

Set the thermometer alarm to 151 degrees. A 14-16lb bird should require a total of 2-2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Ginger Lavender Shortbread

This is super fancy and fun but be careful not to make it too dry. Mine was too dry. I'll come back and make changes to the recipe once I figure out what I did. I have a feeling it was the flour. See below:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (this was way too much, use less and I think they will turn out fine)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 tsp dried lavender blossoms
  • 1 cup butter

Preheat oven to 325. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper & set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, crystallized ginger, lavender & ground ginger.

Using a food processor or electric mixer, cut in butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs & starts to cling. Form dough into a ball; knead until smooth - dough will be very crumbly at first but will come together as you work it with your hands. Roll or pat dough onto prepared cookie sheet into 11"x6" rectangle...or as close as you can get. Mine was quite the rounded rectangle.

With a large knife, carefully halve rectangle lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 16 slices. Do not separate slices. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until edges are light brown & the center is set. Re-cut the rectangle & separate the slices while warm.

Sprinkle with additional sugar. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Place cookies in layers, separated by wax paper in an airtight container.

Creamy Lemon Rice

Oh so good. Goes great with herbed chicken. I adapted this one for a rice cooker.

  • Basmati or Jasmine rice
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • sea salt
  • cream
  • lemon juice

Prepare rice in rice cooker as usual, but use chicken broth instead of water. Add other ingredients to taste.

Mideast Chicken

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 can of green olives
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1 onion, diced

Use mixer to combine oil, lemon juice, garlic & saffron. Rub mixture on chicken & let marinade. Place remaining ingredients in a pan with the chicken. Simmer covered 20-30 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Basic Crostini

This is a great garnish, goes good in creamy soups and on its own.

  • italian rustic bread
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Heat broiler. Slice an italian rustic bread (I used french) on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick, then cut slices in half. Place bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with olive oil & season with sea salt. Broil until lightly browned around the edges - this happens fast so check it every 30 seconds!

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Martha Stewart's Elaborate-As-Hell Potroast w/ Winter Vegetables & Pan Gravy

From my parents 39th anniversary menu. I don't think it's the best pot roast recipe out there, but it was good and fun to make. Man, that Martha is detailed...

For Browning Meat:
  • 3-4lbs chuck roast, tied if necessary
  • coarse salt & freshly ground pepper
  • sunflower or other neutral tasting oil

For Aromatics:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled & thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled & coarsely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme

For Braising Meat:

  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour (plus more, if needed)
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (plus more, if needed)
  • 1 1/4 cups water

For Garnish Vegetables:

  • 3/4lb turnips (about 3), peeled & cut into 1 1/2 inch wedges
  • 3/4lb new potatoes (about 12 small)
  • 3/4lb carrots (4-5 medium), peeled & cut into 3-inch lengths

I. Brown the Meat

Pat meat dry with paper towels, then season on all sides with salt & pepper. Heat a dutch oven over high heat for 2 minutes. Add enough oil to barely coat the bottom of the pot & heat until simmering.

Sear the meat until golden brown, turning to cook on all sides evenly, about 8 minutes. Martha says, "don't be tempted to turn the meat too soon, or it will tear; instead, wait until it easily releases from the pot". Um, ok. If there are lots of blackened bits on the bottom of the pot, wipe it clean with a paper towel, or deglaze with a little water & then discard.

II. Cook Aromatics

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the olive oil & all of the aromatics and cook, stirring fairly often, until the onion is translucent, 2-3 minutes. Martha says, "you may need to increase the heat after a minute or two if the onion isn't softening, but only slightly. If the garlic or onion begins to burn, add a little water & stir up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan." I told you she's elaborate.

III. Braise Meat

Sprinkle the flour into the pot & stir to coat everything evenly; cook the flour just long enough to remove the starchy taste without taking on any color, about 30 seconds.

Add vinegar & water and bring to a boil. Deglaze pot, scraping up browned bits from the bottom. Put the roast in the pot, the water should come only about 1 inch up the sides of the meat. Reduce the heat so the liquid is simmering, not boiling, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.

While the meat is braising, turn it every 30 minutes; the meat should be almost tender. Martha says, "a sharp knife inserted into the center should meet little resistance after 2 1/2 t0 3 hours." Thanks.

Remove the meat from the pot. Strain braising liquid through a sieve (fine), pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.

IV. Finish Braising w/ Garnish Vegetables

Return the roast & the strained liquid to the pot. Nestle the garnish vegetables around the roast, submerging them a bit in the liquid. The liquid should almost reach the top of the vegetables.

Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15-20 minutes. The meat should be very tender by now and give no resistance (again, thanks Martha) when pierced with a knife. The meat will be firm enough to slice; if you want it to be falling-apart tender, cook 30 minutes more.

V. Finish Sauce

Transfer the meat & vegetables to a serving platter, leaving the sauce behind (there should be about 1 cup). Cover & keep warm near the stove. If the sauce is too thin, heat until reduced. Martha shares - "be mindful of the saltiness, since the more the sauce is reduced, the saltier it will taste". You could also thicken it with a bit more flour, whisking until smooth. Add a small amount of vinegar if necessary, to balance the flavors.

Let the roast stand for about 20 minutes, then slice to desired thickness. Spoon some sauce over pot roast & vegetables to moisten. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.


Autumn Apple Cake w/ Hot Caramel Sauce

From my parents 39th anniversary menu:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 apples, peeled & grated
  • 1/4 cup butter

For the caramel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease pan & set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar. Beat in egg. Stir in flour, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda & salt. Fold in apples.

Pour into prepared pan & bake for 30-40 minutes or until cake is done & toothpick comes out clean. Cut in squares when cool & serve with hot caramel sauce.

To make caramel sauce, melt butter in saucepan over low heat & then add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue stirring for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove sauce from heat & serve over apple cake squares.

**image stolen from**

Dumplings (for soup)

I use this for chicken soup but it could go in most anything you want:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flour (maybe more)

Mix ingredients together, adding enough flour to make it the consistency of thick ketchup.

Dip a spoon into the soup that is softly boiling, then scoop a small amount of dumpling mix & dunk it in the soup.

The dumpling should immediately fall off the spoon & plump up.

Repeat until mix is gone.

My Parents' 39th Anniversary Menu

Last year was my parents 39th anniversary and I decided to cook them dinner. I did 4 courses - soup, seafood, meat, dessert. Here it is below. Next week is their big 40th and I've decided to do an elaborate 8-course tasting menu. I don't have a clue if I can pull it off but I'll be posting the menu as well as all of the recipes on here.

First Course: Creamed Garlic Soup w/ crostini & fresh squeezed lemon juice

Second Course: Seared Bay Scallops, fennel puree, fleur de sel

Third Course: Country Pot Roast w/ turnips, carrots, potatoes & pan gravy

Fourth Course: Autumn Apple Spice Cake w/ caramel sauce, champagne

It was a massive hit, especially for my first try at a full menu made from scratch. It can only go up from here!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You can help your own hamburger

Lately I've been cooking on the cheap. I was thinking you might be too. So I've gone back and marked meals that were really affordable to make.

Got ground beef? got pasta? You don't need sauce. You don't need Hamburger Helper. We're in a recession. Do it this way and spend about $1.25 a serving.

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 lb ground beef, browned & drained
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup small pasta (I used mini bowties)
  • lemon pepper
  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • dried parsley or chervil

Saute onions & garlic in olive oil until translucent.

Brown ground beef & drain.

Add ground beef, tomatoes and sprinkle with lemon pepper.

Prepare pasta separately, strain, then stir in.

Add herbs to taste.